This is the kind of movie you think of when you hear the words “National Geographic” — thought-provoking, gorgeous to see and entertaining. In a sense, it’s a kind of travelogue of our planet and its people, and it's perfectly suited for the National Geographic Giant Screen at the Putnam Museum, Davenport.

“Living in the Age of Airplanes” begins with an inspiring quote from Bill Gates: “The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas and values together.”

Then we hear Harrison Ford as the superb narrator who takes us to all seven continents and 18 countries to reconsider the miracle of flight and how it connects the entire globe. “When we enter an airport, we enter a portal to the planet,” Ford says.

At one time, walking was the only means of transportation. In ancient times, people seldom traveled more than 20 miles from where they were born —civilizations rose and fell without knowing the existence of others. Now, at any time, more than a quarter of a million people are in the sky. “What was once a migration is now a vacation,” Ford says. “We can go anywhere that anyone has ever lived.”

Director Brian J. Terwilliger deftly directs each sequence, and makes every image count, contrasting a herd of elephants walking across a runway in Africa to a group of people moving across an airport walkway. You’ll see some breathtaking panoramas here, from waterfalls to the bluest of waters. He tells the story in five “chapters,” starting with “The World Before the Airplane.”

One sequence with a riot of color was shot at the world’s biggest flower hub, with flower shipped to 130 countries, just outside of Amsterdam. It’s the core of the chapter about how aviation brings the world to nearly everyone.

The noteworthy score is by the late Oscar-winning composer James Horner, well-known for writing, among others, the score for “Titanic” (Horner, ironically, died last year when a plane he was piloting crashed). It takes listeners soaring as they enjoy different perspectives — some of them airborne — on gorgeous wonders — some natural, and some manmade — in all kinds of environments.

The DVD and Blu-Ray versions are available now, and they have some extras that make those formats well worth seeing. But because this film’s sound and sights are so glorious, it deserves to be seen first on the giant screen.

Finally, “Out of all the places an airplane takes us, perhaps the most meaningful is home,” Ford says. I won’t ruin the last images for you except to say this: You may see them through clouded eyes.


Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church